Five years on –– and hoping for change

EMERGENCY911 block-1August was a personal milestone for me, as I completed five years with Barbados TODAY as one of its columnists. It all started in 2010 as my being a guest columnist, and, thanks to the encouragement of the Editorial staff, not only did it serve to reignite a long dormant passion for writing, but renewed a commitment to practise the lessons and tutoring I had received from some of Barbados’ most experienced and respected journalists as a young reporter in the
early 1970s.

As implied by my first Editor/CEO, I had become one of the “pests” in his life; I guess I was a good “pest”, if such a creature exists, because he never found a bug spray that would work on me. And, as I begin my sixth year with Barbados TODAY, I wish to reassure my new Editor/CEO that this “pest” is going to remain by her side for another five.

One of the things I learned as a young reporter was that truth and honesty have continued to be the foundation for either influencing positive change in a society or instigating an awakening of the soul of man. As a people, we seldom take the time to reflect on the consequences of our actions, either on ourselves or on others as we strive to maintain balance in an
ever-changing society. We seldom consider the implications of how a simple sentence presented in a public forum can influence how another person reacts, based on how they reflect on what was said.

As journalists and writers, we are faced with the reality that what we say can and will influence how another person behaves; and, on a global perspective, that same influence can and will impact entire societies.

I often wonder what benefit my contributions serve you readers as you continue about your daily lives. My recommendations and suggestions on preparedness and safety, though based on many years’ experience, do not necessarily guarantee that you, while recognizing my knowledge of the subject, will change. I cannot help but ponder my contribution to social change from a disaster preparedness perspective.

Did I, in any form or fashion, influence anyone to be more prepared, safer and more secure? Did I, as a writer and as
a specialist in emergency management and in occupational safety and health, influence positive changes in the workplace?

Did I waken conscientiousness in the worker that would make him acutely aware of safety issues while at work? Did I as a writer influence positive changes in the home? Do families now recognize that some of the things they took for granted contained hidden dangers of which they were not aware?

Is it safe to say my suggestions to improving safety in the home were seen as not being intrusive but being helpful? Is it my responsibility, as a specialist in this particular subject, to ensure that changes in safety practices are instituted for the protection of all? While it may be difficult to gauge each and every comment, it would appear that this column does serve a meaningful purpose in helping to promote tangible change in preparedness planning and social attitudes towards reducing complacency in society.

As journalists, receiving feedback on our words and deeds serves as a gauge for determining the quality of our work. It helps to reinforce the fact that we have a social responsibility to report the truth, comment on the social ills of a society and promote those concepts that will allow any society to remain safe and environmentally aware. This same feedback also reminds us that as we sit behind our computers and write long stories and report on the myriad of activities occurring within a society, that not only are we presenting or reporting on the actions of others, we are also presenting our perspective on the consequences of someone else’s actions.

More importantly, it helps us to continually keep in focus that if we allow our words to become biased by our personal opinions, then the continuing flow of positive consequences of our words will turn negative and impact the continuing growth of a society.

Barbados like any other country, regardless of its economic development, receives comments and criticisms from its population and its neighbours, whether invited or not, on how it’s social, political, protective, health and safety systems are serving the population. In some cases the feedback received is not always complimentary, which results
in irate comments being made about those who have made the “not so positive” comments.

However, it is those “not so positive” comments that allow a society to examine its own development and whether or not those that have either been elected, appointed, or hired are performing as would be expected, based on their presented qualifications and professed abilities.

Once again, the power of a natural hazard has been graphically presented in the form of massive flooding in Dominica. The flooding claimed lives, destroyed infrastructure and severely weakened an island-nation’s economic development.

The severity and magnitude of conflicts in the Middle East have not yet been seen in the Caribbean; and neither have journalists been publicly executed in the streets of a Caribbean island.

Services were recently held to commemorate the lives of the six victims of the Campus Trendz fire in The City. Health and safety analysts and engineers have all commented on that incident from more than one perspective, but shared one definitive conclusion. They all agree that had there been another exit/entrance in the building, there is a very high probability that no lives would have been lost that evening, even if there were injuries.

Within weeks after the Campus Trendz fire, another multi-tenanted, single-entrance commercial building, with no emergency exits, or back doors, had been fully constructed and opened in Worthing.

Once more, we complain but accept the mediocrity of life. Comments that followed that tragic Tudor Street blaze included calls for changes in safety regulations that govern exits/entrances for commercial buildings, and for the full implementation of the much discussed Barbados Building Code that regulates commercial building construction.

Carl Moore and Charles Harding once cautioned me that our words could influence children; influence schools; influence the opinions of the government of a country. Our words can be used by religious leaders to remind their followers of the implications of negative behaviour. Our words can influence the beliefs that others hold. Our words can influence love, hate, friendship, war, sharing, greed, guilt, violence, and peace.

The two told me that as journalists, our words are far-reaching, and that once printed, or uttered, were gone forever. Someone, somewhere will repeat them; and, therefore, responsible reporting was one the keys of professional journalism.

Gentlemen, I will endeavour always to practise what you and several others have shared with me.

We never know who reads what we write. We can only hope that what we have written will be considered as responsible. We never know if our words are either intrusive or welcomed by the person who reads them. We can only as writers, continue to follow our training and lessons we have learned from those who went before us.

I hope my words have helped influence my readers in a positive way, and I look forward to continuing to being a “pest” to my editor as I strive to keep this column fresh and informative –– which is no small task, I might add.


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